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Georgia Lawmakers Seek to Decriminalize Marijuana

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With Atlanta and Clarkston both decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana last year, two lawmakers are seeking to decriminalize possession statewide. Representative Miriam Paris has introduced House Bill 865 to decriminalize possession of one-half ounce of marijuana or less. The proposed fine would be set at a maximum of $300.

Current punishments for marijuana possession of less than an ounce is up to a year in jail and a $1,000, along with a misdemeanor on your criminal record, according to Ledger-Enquirer. Possession of one ounce or more in Georgia results in a felony charge currently.

Paris said, “It is just making it where we’re not sending people to jail, where they have to go and sit just because they can’t make bail for it.”

Paris’ bill also increases the limit for a felony charge up to 2-ounces or more.

Senator Harold Jones II introduced Senate Bill 105 last year, which is identical to the bill just introduced by Representative Paris. In the 2017 legislative session, Senators did approve reducing penalties for possessing one-half ounce of marijuana, but efforts did stall to complete the process.

Harvard economist Jeffrey A. Miron says that decriminalization will save Georgia a lot of money. Enforcement costs billions to state and federal governments.

Paris said, “A lot of times, these are poor people that are getting caught, same thing, it’s just a vicious cycle, when you continue to rack up court fees, bond fees, things like that.”

Paris’ bill has not been scheduled for a committee hearing yet. Jones’ bill still hasn’t been scheduled for a hearing in this year’s session, but both remain hopeful that hearings and/or votes will take place.